Review of Tempest in a Teapot by Kate Valent

Tempest in a Teapot by Kate Valent
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tempest in a Teapot – Cover

📖 Tempest in a teapot follows a young lady named Charlotte, a baker’s daughter she is both excited and nervous when she is invited to a party of the upcoming wealthy family the Steepe’s. However, everyone knows the Steepe’s are after a noble match to elevate their standing within society, so when Charlotte is selected by the (rather odd) heir to the Steepe family, Martin to be his fiancée, based purely on her favourite tea, Charlotte’s world turns on its axis.

✍️ This is such an intriguing little book. From the first page, I was quite drawn to it. Charlotte is a great character, a hard worker used to her family’s ways. She devours books (particularly penny bloods which are not the most suitable reading for the young ladies in society) and dreams of writing her own. After her surprise engagement, Charlotte crosses paths with the beautiful but frightening Bertram (Martin’s cousin) who is determined to break the engagement off and that Martin should be marrying someone within high society. Yet, the more time Charlotte spends with Martin and his intriguing, quirky ways, the more she actually starts to fall on him.

👓 This book is a fantasy book with much of the side story being around runes and their use (originally by the wealthy but with more and more making their way to the working class). The book is set in a somewhat historical Victorian setting (I suspect 1851 as there is a reference to Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition, but please don’t hold me to that!), with many of the traditions, mannerisms (and class systems) referenced from that time period.

👫 Great range of characters, both Martin and Charlotte were cute and sweet (and innocent enough to make the traditional love story elements of the book work. I enjoyed the side characters and storylines such as the spirited Hawke sisters (envious of being women in a man’s world), the straight-talking Laoise, and the misadventures of Oolong the dog.

🗺 Tempest in a teapot (American English), or storm in a teacup (British English), is an idiom meaning a small event that has been exaggerated out of proportion. One of the things I love about this book title is it is actually a direct quote from the book. There’s always a sense of satisfaction when the title makes sense.

💔 Any Negatives: I guess, perhaps the book is a little obvious. There is no great mystery about what is going to happen next. You know who the good guy is, who the bad guy is and that ultimately love will win. But I think that is endearing in itself and didn’t detract at all from the story. I can certainly see this tea-ing off (pun intended) a Bridgerton style series.

💭 Overall View: an enjoyable romp through a magical Victorian world (with tea and cakes!). What’s not to like?!

📣 Disclaimer: I received an advance reader copy of this book for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.


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Writing Extract:

Tempest in a TeaPot – Extract

Review of The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

📖 I decided last year to try to push myself to read more classic literature as although I read in quite a variety of genres, I do tend to stick with mostly modern writers (although To Kill a Mockingbird is still an all-time favourite, as is Rebecca). This little book was sitting in the library looking up at me and with a brief read of the cover, I thought I would give it a go.

Cover – The Bookshop



✍️ Penelope Fitzgerald was an English novelist, poet, essayist and biographer. In 2008, The Times included her in a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. This book was Penelope Fitzgerald’s second novel, and was her first to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

She drove back one morning from Flintmarket to find the premises full of twelve- and thirteen-year-old boys in blue jerseys. They were Sea Scouts, they told her.
‘How did you get in?’
‘Mr Raven got the key from the plumber,’ said one of the children, square and reliable as a straw-bale.
‘He’s not your skipper, is he?’
‘No, but he told us to come over to yours. What do you want doing?’

👓 This book is primarily told from the point of Florence Green. A widow, who against the advice of most of those she knows, opens a bookshop in a small town. The town is virtually cut off from the outside world and Florence hopes that the bookshop will both bring the community together and bring a bit of worldview as she brings in books from published books from further afield.

👫 Initially Florence gains some support and even trains a young, streetwise girl to become her assistant but as is always the case with small towns, there are several busybodies but in Florence’s case, from the outset, there are those determined that her bookshop will not succeed.

💔 Any Negatives: I’m really perplexed reviewing this book. It has a bookshop (always a win), the writing evokes the time period and location very well, and I did like Florence. However the book itself feels very slow-moving (despite being a rather short book), and without giving any spoilers, I hated the ending which left me feeling very flat and as if I had trudged through the previous pages pointlessly. I am intrigued to see the movie and see if it brings more positivity to this story.

💭 Overall View: Perhaps I was expecting too much from this little book, sacrilege to all bookworms but I am holding out hope that the movie overshadows it.

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Review of Blackwater by Conn Iggulden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Fiction – Quick reads – Crime Thriller – Violence

Cover – Blackwater


📖 This is such a strange book for me. None of the characters are particularly likeable yet the book was enjoyable.

✍️ Davey is the protagonist of the story. The book opens with him standing in the Sea at Brighton, fully clothed and contemplating his life. Through a series of flashbacks, we are introduced to Davey’s older, slightly bullying brother. Then we are told of Carol, Davey’s wayward straying wife. When Carol captures the eye of Denis, a well-known gangster type, Davey soon finds himself in trouble and calls on his brother to help.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

I think my brother killed him. I’d never had the nerve to ask outright, but our eyes had met as the coffin dropped down into the hole between us. I hadn’t known how to look away, but before I could he’d winked at me and I’d remembered all the secret cruelties of his life.

👓 Without giving too much away, one of the greatest things about this book was the twists at the end. I didn’t predict it at all and love it when something like that catches you out. It is dark and probably not what I would normally read but that is one of the great things about the quickreads series is that it encourages you to try something you might not otherwise.

👫 This is such a strange book as Davey who tells the story isn’t the most likeable character. Yet the author does a great job of intriguing the reader enough to make you want to know what happens to Davey and his straying wife.

🗺 I’ve been trying to think of authors that write similarly to this and the only one that comes to mind is Louise Candlish (The Skylight novella particularly springs to mind).

💭 Overall View: Certainly a quirky book. I imagine if you are into dark crimes or unreliable narrators this will be right up your street.


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Review of The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife

My rating: 5 of 5 stars (more if they were available).
Genre: Non-Fiction – History – Animal Welfare – Military – Mythology

📖 Wow! What a book. I bought this as an impulse buy after watching the highly enjoyable “Inside the Tower of London” tv series on Channel 5. I had googled a few facts and stories from the show and up popped this book in amongst my search and I decided to give it a go, I am pleased to say I was not disappointed.

Cover – The Ravenmaster



✍️ Chris takes us through his life before the tower, at the tower and then of course the introduction to the ravens and their antics. The book is smart, funny and really insightful.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

According to Celtic legend, around here is also where the head of Bran the Blessed, the king of England in Welsh mythology, was buried. Bran means ‘raven’, and he’s supposed to have been buried not far from the ravens’ current enclosures, which seems appropriate.

👓 There are so many interesting tales in this book, but I particularly enjoyed all the myths and legends around both the tower and the ravens. I imagine Chris is a particularly interesting person to have a pint with, the stories he could rattle off!

👫 A lot of the stories are quite humorous where the clever ravens get up to some legendary Hijinx (occasionally at Chris’s expense). However, Chris also includes a chapter about the commemorative art installation for The First World War Centenary which saw the moat filled with thousands of poppies. I remember seeing this on the news at the time and it looked spectacular but reading Chris’s story regarding it choked up my throat and brought a tear to my eye! Bravo sir!

💭 Overall View: Hugely enjoyable book that would appeal to history readers, animal lovers, London tourists, military enthusiasts and so much more. Highly recommended.

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Review of Tees Valley Curiosities by Robert Woodhouse

Tees Valley Curiosities by Robert Woodhouse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Factual – Travel – History

📖 I was unsure whether to write this review or not but I really enjoyed reading this book and thought I should share that. I love to learn about local histories. I do this a lot when I travel so when I came across this little book I was quite excited to see what was around the Tees Valley area.

Cover – Tees Valley Curiosities

👓 This book focuses more on the interesting objects to be found in the region instead of places themselves. The book is really interestingly laid out. Each object has a history about it, details on how to access it, brilliant photographs and then snippets of stories of it appearing in the press or writings (often historical articles).

✍️ There are so many great objects but here are a few of my favourites:

• Darlington yards and wynds – All these wynds have interesting names but there is one with a bull carving. This is said to be linked to the Bulmer family, who at one time owned the nearby Bull Inn. The hostelry was probably named after the mighty beast known as the Ketton (or Durham) Ox that was bred by the Colling brothers at the nearby hamlets of Ketton and Barmpton.

o Reading this story made me want to find out more about the Ketton Ox. The ox was bred in 1802 by Charles Colling of Ketton, near Darlington.

o The beast, weighing 34cwt and 11ft around the girth, was taken around the country and exhibited at fairs.

• The Hitching stone – A former editor of the Northern Echo, W.T.Stead, often used it to tether his pony after travelling to his nearby office from the family home at Grainey Hill Cottage, Hummersknott. In 1880, Mr Stead moved to London to become editor of the Pall Mall Gazette and was drowned in the Titanic disaster of 1912.

o Stead is such an interesting character, he was the first editor to employ women journalists, he campaigned to get the age of consent raised from 13 to 16, he was imprisoned and of course, as listed above, he died on the Titanic.

o There is an interesting article on him here – https://web.archive.org/web/201204131…

👫 I think the thing that I enjoyed most about this book is that it prompted me to want to know more and more (as can be seen in the two examples above).

🗺 Are there any curios in your town? If so, I’d love to hear about them. 😊

💭 Overall View: A brilliant little book with a fantastic collection of interesting tales.

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Review of Clean Break by Tammy Cohen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Crime – Relationships – Psychological thriller

📖 Kate wants a divorce. Her husband Jack doesn’t want a divorce. Their marriage has been on the rocks for years, Kate isolating herself from friends and family over the years to appease her controlling husband Jack. When she finally plucks up the nerve to ask for a divorce she begins to feel free but life is never that simple and Jack’s controlling nature surfaces again in unsuspecting ways.

Cover – The Clean Break

✍️ Wow, this book pulled me in quickly and didn’t let go, with an ending that had a hell of a twist in its tale. This book is dark, it’s all about keeping secrets. Yet also, so much of it is entirely relatable.

👓 The story alternates from Kate’s viewpoint to Jack’s, each time revealing just a little more about their past (or their present) with a few surprises along the way.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

For the first hour or so after the policeman left, all she could think of was Tom, and the look in his green eyes when he told her he was falling in love with her.
But now her thoughts have moved to Jack. How his mouth had twisted up when he’d said, ‘I can smell him on you.’ The hatred coming off him in waves.

🗺 This book is part of the “quick reads” collection which I like to intersperse between larger novels. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than a normal book by world-leading authors (less than 100 pages). One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time. This author certainly uses that fast pace to full advantage.

👫 I have never read Tammy Cohen’s work before but based on this novella I certainly will look out for future works from her.

💭 Overall View: A clever story, with a dark plot and the dual narrator method really pulls you in.

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Review of Notting Hill Carnival by Candice Carty-Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover – The Notting Hill Carnival


Genre: Romance – Quick Reads – Retellings

📖 This book is pretty much a modern-day remake of Romeo and Juliet. The story primarily follows a girl named Sapphire who once was the leader of a gang called the Red Roses. She’s turned her life around, got a job and is trying to go straight as it were. Unfortunately, the leader of the Gold Teeth Gang has other plans and Sapphire soon finds herself being pulled back into that old world. On her way to the Notting Hill Carnival, Sapphire finds herself forming a friendship with a boy named Apollo but they both soon have their loyalties tested when they find out they each belong to rival gangs.

✍️ This book is part of the “quick reads” collection which I like to intersperse between larger novels. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than a normal book by world-leading authors (less than 100 pages). One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time. This book carries a lot of action and a lot of background despite its short number of pages, and I enjoyed that. The romance aspect perhaps could have developed more (as I’m sure it would have in a longer book) but I’m sure the reader got the gist and was willing the couple to triumph.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘Do I know you from somewhere?’ he said back, smiling.
Sapphire stifled a laugh. This was the oldest trick in the book, though she hadn’t heard it for a long time. All work and no play in the last few months had made Sapphire feel like nobody would ever be attracted to her.
‘I don’t think so’, she smiled. He was kind of cute. Not as big as the guys she usually went for, but she did like his eyes.

🗺 This book takes place in London (probably obvious by the title) but I enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the areas. You really got a feel for the turf was between the gangs and the busy carnival bringing it all to a head.

💔 Any Negatives: Possibly could have done with a little more romance but to be honest the amount of story packed into such a short book it would have been difficult to achieve this.

💭 Overall View: A brilliant little story and a great tribute to a classic. The story felt sassy and strong-willed. The main character was well portrayed, and you did find yourself willing her to triumph. Overall, very enjoyable.

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Review of The Merciful Women by Federico Andahazi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of The Merciful Women

I did make the mistake of taking this book out with me to a quiet Yorkshire town cafe and got a few strange looks.

📖 My first thought on completion of this book (and several times throughout reading) is “what a bizarre book”. I very much think it will be like marmite, you will either love it or hate it. I’m glad I read it as it is certainly intriguing and challenging to the books I would normally read but I’m not sure I’d revisit it.

The book was originally written in another language (Spanish?) and then translated to English. The story is obscure and dark. Most people are aware of the story of Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley’s trip from which the story of Frankenstein was born. This book is a retelling of that tale which includes the story of John Polidori, who is attributed to writing “The Vampyre”.

✍️ John finds himself in contact with an intriguing character who wants to share her story with him and will help him write the greatest story of all time, the vampyre. John, of course, eagerly agrees, but with everything, nothing in this world is free.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

I behave according to my primitive impulses. In this, Dr Polidori, we may find we share a common trait. I am inexhaustible and lascivious, and I never measure the consequences of seeking that which I desire – or rather, that which I need. I am nothing but one-third of a monster that no imagination, either human or divine, could have conceived.

👫 This book has everything you would want in a gothic horror; a dark re-telling, an isolated location, secret candlelight stories and a creature of the night.

💔 Any Negatives: This book is excessively erotic at times, often drifting into the more vulgar aspects.

💭 Overall View: Another reviewer wrote, reading this was like having a psychedelic dream and I feel that is probably one of the most accurate interpretations of this book. It is smart, dark and daring, yet sometimes too bizarre for my tastes.

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Review of Future Bright, Future Grimm by D.J. MacLennan

Future Bright, Future Grimm: Transhumanist Tales for Mother Nature’s Offspring by D.J. MacLennan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Future Bright, Future Grimm – Cover.



Genre: Fantasy – Fairytales – Mythical

📖 Disclaimer – I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

✍️ This book has such an interesting writing style, it is almost antiquated yet also modern, an intriguing blend. In a strange way, you feel smart reading but at the same time, the stories are recognisable as variations on traditional tales. Although these variations are far from the Disney versions you may be more familiar with.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘I come to take your daughter,’ said the red-lit being. ‘With me, she actualises; with you, she dies.’

‘I don’t know who or what you are,’ cried the woman, ‘but please don’t take my daughter. She’s all I have!’

‘You are all you have; she is all she has,’ came the dry rustle of response to the woman’s desperate plea. Then, with a loud pop-zip, the being was gone.

The woman stumbled back to her shack, whimpering as she went. She unlocked the sheet-iron door and burst in. But she was too late – her beloved daughter had been taken.

👓 This book contains 24 short stories and at the end of each one, the author provides detail of the original story and an overview of areas he changed during the re-telling (e.g. trading male for female viewpoints, adjusting time periods etc). I really enjoyed these creative insights. The stories are dark, shocking and striking. If anyone has ever read the “original” Grimm stories (for example in the original Grimm version Cinderella’s sisters cut off their toes to try to make them fit the slipper), Maclennan very much pays homage to this writing style.

👫 The author also includes a detailed introduction about the different terms used in fairy tales (such as Transhumanism) including insight into its use and historical references. This is very interesting

🗺 As a little side note (not that it should particularly matter) but the cover is also rather beautiful, harking back to traditional storybook style covers.

💭 Overall View: Not for the faint-hearted but this is a really intriguing collection of dark stories.

Review of Women & Power by Mary Beard

Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover – Women and Power


📖 I picked this book up at the airport on the way to a holiday. I had never heard of Mary Beard prior to it and it was just the concept and the initial pages which pulled me in but I must say it was an enjoyable read and I felt quite empowered after reading it.

✍️ The book is based on two lectures previously given by Mary Beard. Short but to the point. The historical aspects of the book were most intriguing. It explores the male authority within the western culture from multiple historic viewpoints, Greek, Roman, it even has a quick look at Queen Elizabeth the first and her most famous words “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too” or were they?

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

In the early fourth century BC, for example, Aristophanes devoted a whole comedy to the ‘hilarious’ fantasy that women might take over running the state. Part of the joke was that women couldn’t speak properly in public – or rather, they couldn’t adapt their private speech (which in this case was largely fixated on sex) to the lofty idiom of male politics.

👓 I wouldn’t say I agreed with every concept approached in this book, however, like all good books, it was certainly thought-provoking. Beard’s arguments are very compelling. It also stayed with me for quite some time after reading.

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https://amzn.to/3rW2DFY

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